You are viewing blog items for April 2016.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Thursday, 28 April 2016, 11:13
As I write this, Labour is embroiled in yet another unseemly row about antisemitism.
Yesterday the party suspended Bradford West MP Naz Shah, over her comments on Facebook in 2014 suggesting that Israel should be moved to America.
This time it was former London Mayor and Labour NEC member Ken Livingstone who has quite rightly been suspended for bringing the party into disrepute, after claiming Hitler had supported “Zionism… before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.” Livingstone had been responding to Shah’s suspension.
He was accused of being a “nazi apologist” by Labour MP John Mann.
Naz Shah’s own office manager, who is also a Bradford councillor, had already been suspended for his own antisemitic comments, as has another Bradford councillor who subsequently resigned from the party and is standing as an independent in the local elections.
Labour’s antisemitism problem has largely boiled over into the media since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader. While no-one has accused him of being antisemitic, he has courted controversy by aligning himself to antisemites, a Holocaust denier and those who support the destruction of Israel.
Since his election, there has been a succession of Labour members and councillors exposed for making antisemitic comments. There is an investigation underway involving Oxford University Labour Club and even Corbyn’s own brother waded into the controversy by claiming that “#Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for #Palestine”.
All this has led to a growing number of people, inside and outside the Labour Party, demanding more resolute action to be taken by the party to root out antisemitism within its ranks.
However, while the spotlight is on Labour – and how it deals with Ken Livingstone’s outrageous outburst will be crucial – this whole affair highlights a much larger problem of left-wing antisemitism and anti-Jewish attitudes within sections of the Muslim community, too.
For some, this stems from an ill-educated blurring of the lines between anti-Zionism (and criticism of Israel) and antisemitism. For others, it is sadly quite deliberate and considered.
Even before this latest row erupted, HOPE not hate had decided to address the issue of left-wing antisemitism in the forthcoming July/August issue of our bi-monthly magazine. Rather than simply echoing the growing voices of concern, we wanted to conduct a serious assessment of what left-wing antisemitism was and how it manifested itself in Britain today, and attempt to draw the clear red lines between acceptable criticism of Israel and antisemitism.
We not only wanted to throw a spotlight on the issue, but help the Left deal with it.
But the suspensions of Naz Shah and now Ken Livingstone have brought this issue right to the surface, and it’s time for Labour to show it’s serious about understanding the special nature of, and dealing with, antisemitism. And this must go beyond simply disciplining a couple of individuals but addressing an underlying current within the British Left.
Posted: 28 Apr 2016 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Joe Mulhall | on: Thursday, 14 April 2016, 16:07
A Response to Trevor Phillips and the Channel 4 Polling of British Muslims
Anyone interested in social inclusion, integration and equality should welcome the recent ICM poll of British Muslims that hit the headlines this week and was included in Trevor Phillips Channel 4 programme last night, 'What British Muslims Really Think'. Any hard data that can offer an insight into people’s attitudes and beliefs gives us the opportunity to identify things that are working in Britain today and to face up, analyse and address any problems.
That is not to say that this ICM poll is perfect. Legitimate methodological queries have been raised in regards to how representative it is. Firstly, only 44% of those polled were actually born in Britain, which may have been a contributing factor in some of the more conservative findings.
More troubling is that the poll was only conducted in areas were Muslims made up more than 20% of the population, meaning it covered just 51% of the British Muslim community. It thus disproportionally relied on the views of those of Pakistani or Bangladeshi ethnicity, often from severely economically deprived areas. Perhaps the report should have been called ‘What some Muslims really think’.
There were also a number of questions worded in such a manner that may have skewed the results. One asked whether the participant thought ‘Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust’ [emphasis mine]. The use of ‘still’ indicates that at some point in the past Jews have indeed talked too much about the Holocaust. Badly worded questions such as this may well have made it more likely for participants to agree as well as being deeply offensive to Jews.
However, using methodological short fallings (likely the result of economic constraints) to dismiss these findings is the wrong approach. There is no doubt that some of the responses, especially in relation to women, LGBT rights and antisemitism, are deeply worrying and to ignore them would be irresponsible. Any evidence of prejudice and discrimination has to be taken seriously.
Thirty-nine percent (39%) of those polled agreed that “wives should always obey their husbands” while 31% thought it was acceptable for a British Muslim man to have more than one wife. Shockingly just 66% were willing to completely condemn those who took part in stoning adulterers.
When asked about gay rights just 18% of those polled believed homosexuality should be legal, while 52% disagreed. Forty-seven percent (47%) thought it unacceptable for a gay person to become a teacher.
The answers regarding Jews in the UK were particularly concerning, with evidence of many traditional antisemitic tropes about Jewish power and influence. For example, 35% of those polled believed that Jewish people have too much power in Britain, while 31% thought the same about their power over government and 39% on the media.
Pretending that these figures are not worrying would be disingenuous, as well as counter-productive. Clearly work has to be done to challenge such attitudes, both within the many Muslim communities of Britain; sweeping them under the carpet would be wrong. No matter one’s religious, cultural or ethnic background prejudice can never be excused.
However, these negative findings are by no means the whole picture. Despite the analysis of this data offered by Trevor Phillips during his clumsy documentary and media appearances, the poll actually paints a pluralistic picture of British Muslim attitudes. Listening to the commentary in some of the press and from Mr Phillips himself you wouldn’t believe it, but there were some positives in this polling.
Eighty-six percent (86%) of British Muslims feel a strong sense of belonging in Britain, which is higher than the national average (83%). Furthermore, 88% of those questioned said Britain was a good place for Muslims to live. This at the very least challenges the oft-repeated refrain of the far right: ‘If they hate it here so much why don’t they go live somewhere else?’ It seems ‘they’ don’t hate it here; far from it in fact.
One of the main thrusts of Trevor Phillips’ negative analysis of the data is the unwillingness of British Muslims to integrate. He talks of a ‘nation within a nation’. Yet as is the case with much of his commentary on this matter the actual findings offer a far more nuanced picture than the one he paints.
Seventy-eight (78%) said they would like to integrate with non-Muslims ‘in all aspects of life’ or ‘on most things’. Among the young (18-24) over half opted for complete integration in all aspects of life. When broken down by region rather than age there is more good news. All (100%) Muslims in the North East and 93% in the East Midlands opted for full integration in all aspects of life or integration on most things.
It is not just on integration that Trevor Phillips seems to have allowed his agenda to get in the way of the evidence. One of the statistics that has unsurprisingly attracted much attention is that a small minority (4%) had sympathy with ‘suicide bombing to fight injustice’. Just 1% had ‘complete sympathy’.
During his documentary while discussing this statistic Phillips said:
"Britain’s political elite, both left and right, have preferred to believe that only a very small number of Britain’s Muslims sympathise with Islamist terrorism. The survey suggests otherwise."
Note how the question about suicide bombing asks about the use of such a tactic to ‘fight injustice’ and did not specifically talk about Islamist terrorism. In fact the word Islamism or Islamist does not appear in the full report once. Also, only 1% had ‘complete sympathy’ with such a tactic. While that is certainly 1% too many it is clearly an extremely marginal view within the British Muslim community, something one wouldn’t have guessed from Phillips’ comments.
It is distortions such as this that make it necessary to separate the actual polling data from the analysis offered by Phillips. One can be useful while the other is unhelpful and irresponsible. Phillips and much of the right-wing press that welcomed his various comments have reduced a nuanced and varied community (something that is actually shown in the data) to a single monolithic and homogenous block. Odious commentators such as Katie Hopkins have then taken up and run with these tropes, to present all Muslims as barbaric and backward.
All too often, in fact, people talk of ‘Muslims’ or the ‘British Muslim community’ as though it is a single group. In reality it, like most communities, it is varied and diverse – a community of communities – with large differences depending on denominations/branches of the faith, the density of Muslims in the community in which one lives, educational background, class, generational differences, how long a family has lived in Britain, cultural background (South-East Asian/African/Middle Eastern) and so on. To say ‘Muslims believe this’ or ‘Muslims believe that’ is a gross oversimplification.
It is also important not to view British Muslim communities solely through their religious identity. People have multifaceted identities that include class, economics, gender, sexuality, nationality, geographic location, interests, hobbies and countless others. To reduce Muslims to their religious identity paradoxically mimics the position of Islamists and others, who claim to speak for the ummah (the ‘global community’ of Muslims).
As always, people will take from this poll what they want. James Delingpole writing in The Spectator claimed the findings showed that ‘large numbers of Muslims don’t want to integrate, that their views aren’t remotely enlightened, and that more than a few of them sympathise with terrorism.’ If you pick and choose selectively you will always find evidence to confirm your existing prejudices.
Alternatively, we can use this new information in a more positive and constructive way. Rejecting these findings because some of them are uncomfortable would be folly, not least because it plays directly into the hands of those who seek to exploit them. Rather, let’s use this data to identify important problems and to develop an informed and educated approach to dealing with them.
Joe Mulhall is Research Editor for HOPE not hate @JoeMulhall_
Posted: 14 Apr 2016 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 13 April 2016, 10:39
HOPE not hate has identified 1579 candidates from far-right and populist right-wing parties in May's elections. The vast majority, 1502, are standing for UKIP.
The rest are made up of far-right extremist groups, such as the BNP, Britain First, National Front, British Resistance and British Democrats, plus 29 candidates for the English nationalists, the English Democrats.
Posted: 13 Apr 2016 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 11 April 2016, 17:29
A German MEP who said that police should shoot illegal immigrants has joined a UKIP group in the European parliament chaired by Nigel Farage.
Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD), went on to say that while children shouldn't be shot, women were fair game.
That UKIP happily accepts Storch and her far right group says a lot about the party it has become. It highlights why we need to stop it winning more influence.
Today we launch our 2016 local election campaign and it will be targeted, sophisticated and exciting. I'd love you to get involved.
UKIP is hoping to whip up an hysteria over migrant and Muslims to win hundreds of council seats across the country. It is vying to be the largest party in Thurrock and Rotherham and could hold the balance of power in Wales.
This weekend we have over 50 campaign events across the country. Please join the one near you.
We need to make voters aware that UKIP is on the con. It is hoodwinking the public. It tells voters one thing but privately believe in something quite different. We need to tell voters what UKIP is really about.
If there is not one near you then you can always set one up and we will link you up to other people locally who want to help.
The thought of UKIP winning hundreds more council seats fills me with dread, especially when it forms alliances with the likes of Beatrix von Storch.
I hope you can join us this weekend
Posted: 11 Apr 2016 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Thursday, 7 April 2016, 18:58
Nominations for the May 2016 elections closed two hours ago. HOPE not hate is compiling a list of far right and right wing candidates.
Please do send us in any information you have of such candidates in your area
Posted: 7 Apr 2016 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: James Rennie & Mike Andrews | on: Tuesday, 5 April 2016, 21:37
Arriving in Brussels on Friday evening came to a city expecting a show of strength from the small French fascist grouplette Generation Indentitaire boosted by elements of Belgium's football hooligan community. The group had sickened the world just a week before by disrupting a peace rally in La Bourse Square, throwing Nazi salutes and screaming anti Islamic slogans.
The City was as expected, sophisticated, smart but with an air of menace we had not experienced in the many visits we had made over the years. Huge army trucks placed around the streets leading to La Bourse, with soldiers holding machine guns, spoke volumes about the state of anxiety Brussels still felt.
A short walk to La Bourse gave a stark, poignant, reminder of what Brussels and Paris have gone through recently. The candles and flowers like a carpet of remembrance and hope. Flags flapping over the steps with personal messages echoing the thoughts of many of the hundreds of youth milling around, youth from many different cultures united by grief and by a numbness expressed hundreds of times over in the messages on the cards "Why?" "One love" "Peace" "Not in my name" "This is not Islam". The sight of youth mingling with no animosity and older people lamenting at the waste of lives was sobering, here there was no hint of fear that Nazis would be marching into Molenbeek the day after.
Saturday, our task was to observe the attempts by the fascist to lead a now banned, provocative, march through Molenbeek. A community already under siege by the world's media, a community where around forty percent are said to be Muslim, where this figure is misused and manipulated to suggest it is a community willing to harbour hatred in the form of "Islamic Extremism", a community where the "proof" of this is seen in the arrests and atrocities across the two European capitals in recent times.
Making our way Saturday morning to Molenbeek we passed by La Bourse, the square was much busier than the night before, tourists and more importantly many hundreds of citizens of Belgium were once more paying their respects at the steps. Suddenly, from amongst the crowd a group of perhaps 50 members and supporters of the Belgium’s Parti Socialiste made their way to the steps here the chief spokes-man, Eric Byl addressed the crowd via a megaphone. The message was aimed at those attempting to add fuel to an already volatile situation. The appeal from Eric Byl was that of antifascist everywhere, to call from common cause and stop the fascists marching on Molenbeek. To a chorus of No Passaran the police heavy-handedly arrested those on the steps and compliantly they were led to a waiting police bus. The crowd jostled the police a little and booed the decision. We managed to get a word with Erik Byl as the police somehow left him behind. Eric said he felt the police wanted the young people off the streets; they did not want people to confront the potential marchers of Generation Identitaire. Eric said, “The police are fearful that the community will police the fascist situation themselves, yet it was the police who failed last week to protect the community and those grieving.”
The situation calmed rapidly. We made our way the half mile or so way through the streets to Molenbeek from the centre of Brussels. Little changed in the urban landscape as we walked, lovely squares and communal spaces where people gathered, but the cliché of the wrong side of the tracks holds true. Molenbeek is separated by tramlines and by the canal, severing it from the corridors of power figuratively and literally.
Arriving eventually at Place Communale around 2.30pm, we were surprised how much like the rest of Brussels the environment was, charming cobbled streets, rows of small independent shops - though the quality of the goods and the origins of the shopkeepers was markedly different, reminiscent of the streets around Brick Lane in London. Walking the side streets to get a proper feel for the time and place there was an edginess in the air, but it did not hint of violence more of defiance, if they come they will pay, if they don’t we will make them know they are not welcome. Crowds of younger people chatted and moved around the streets, with the kind of energy youth have when they think something might happen, the odd shout sending people scurrying to the source of the noise, then receding when it was of little consequence or laughing at their anxiety. This went on for quite sometime, around 3pm the mood became more expectant the advertised time of the march was upon us. The Mayor, Françoise Schepmans was in the Place Communale holding an impromptu press conference with the public and press surrounding her in close order, quite remarkable and quite unlike any of the staged set pieces we in the UK are used to. She was reiterating the message that the fascist would not be allowed to have their incendiary march and that all marches would be curtailed today. Notwithstanding the fervour of some the public’s questions the Mayor remained calm and well disposed to the questioners.
As the mayor left the melee we were able to grab a few words with the mayor, “Madam Mayor, do you have a message of hope for the community.” The mayor considered this, and said that “I believe in solidarity, in the community and that we will not let people divide us.” When pressed she responded, “The fascist will not march today, no one will march today, you will see.”
Around the side of the Place Communale is the police station, the crowds now gathered, expecting something but not sure what. We received news from a contact, two carloads of fascist had been held up trying to march some distance away on Avenue l’Atomium, pictures later show a very small band of people with one hand draw banner. It is said the police made some arrests for CS gas and knives. The news had rippled round the crowd. Suddenly without apparent reason youth started moving towards the canal side. This turned into a run and a few hundred youth commenced what would be a period of perhaps an hour and a half engaged in low level skirmishes with the police, skirmishes mainly brought about by the police corralling the community in order to contain any possible disorder, heavily policing the bridges to prevent access to the main business and political centre of Brussels. In hindsight this was probably attributable to the horrific mowing down of a Muslim woman, in Molenbeek, the rumour being it was a Nazi at the wheel.
One particular flash point was the bridge we had crossed into Molenbeek, a formidable line of police in full riot gear and a huge water canon blocked the way and after a chair, a bin and a few cobbles were thrown the police swiftly gained order. The crowd retreated further into Molenbeek. From now on it was a game of keeping mobile or be kettled. The community remarkably policed themselves well; older people and indeed those more responsible of the youth clearly intervened with the more ebullient youth and eased tension. The police had many in plain clothes, instantly recognizable by their size and their choice of clothing the youth and wider community knew who they were. On young man, in a mask taunted the police, it looked like an arrest would be immanent until people around him told him to calm down and spirited him away. The police too intervened, those without the intimidating riot gear intermingled with the crowd, seemingly at great risk, if the characterization of Molenbeek was to be believed. Then emerging from the crowd arm in arm was an older woman and police officer who had a braided cap of rank. The crowd cheered and though not over the tension began to dissipate. This vignette illustrated how Molenbeek is not quite the seething nest of vipers the press like to portray it, it has a community that wants to get on with living a decent life not ferment an Islamic Revolution, a community that reacted as any would at the prospect of others disrupting their community.
Police lines became porous and the trouble seemed over. The crowds meandered back to the Place Communale and the police station, now the main object of police ire became the press who they saw as lingering to create a story giving hotheads an audience. This subsided swiftly. We took this opportunity to talk some of the youth, speaking in a franglais hybrid “Abdi” animatedly said that he was “tired of the police and the threats from fascists and the press – we are not bad people.” “Sayed” who looked angry said that “jobs are poor, chances are poorer it is not easy here.” Trying to speak to elders was much harder both of us were met with short shrift, “press? Non!” Approaching some of the many community police at hand yielded little, they too expressed a desire that the press just leave, we were part of the problem, it is hard to disagree when one reads some of the copy emerging from some elements of the press.
The news over the next few hours was not good a car was driven through a police roadblock eventually knocking a Muslim woman over and the driver and passenger seemingly had weapons to attack the people of Molenbeek. However there was little evidence of the outlandish claims that 400 fascist had been stopped marching into Molenbeek.
For our part, we had gone wherever we had wanted in Molenbeek, we had mingled with people during the flash points, and we never felt threatened or intimidated. It is true that some of the press seemed to be intimidated and acted too warily of the youth and indeed the residents may well feel the press is to blame for how the outside world views them, and to some extent they have a point.
When we left Molenbeek it was calm the police who were standing down mingled with the population there seemed little tinder to cause a fire. The Place Communale echoed only to the murmur of the TV press, reporting on events much of which they had not even been privy to.
Posted: 5 Apr 2016 | There are 2 comments | make a comment/view comments